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15 Things New Moms Don't Know About 'Twisted Neck' Baby Syndrome

Some babies are born with something called torticollis or twisted neck syndrome while others might develop it later on.

Before mothers give birth to their babies, they imagine the life their child will have, the temperament of the child, and what the child would look like. They are always a superior version of their parents, mom or dad 2.0. When the doctor or nurse hands the baby to the mother for the first time, the child is nothing short of perfection. When things go wrong with a baby, it can be devastating for new parents. While an ailment does not decrease a parent’s love for their child, it can increase their stress levels.

Some babies are born with something called torticollis or twisted neck syndrome while others might develop it later on. While this ailment is not very common, it is important that parents educate themselves on various ailments. Knowledge is power. The more parents know the more they can recognize and talk with a medical professional about symptoms they may be observing in their child. With most things, catching it early can make treatment easier.

Twisted neck syndrome is not something that should be taken lightly. If parents let this go by unnoticed, it could lead to other complications as the child grows older. It is always better to err on the side of caution.

15Don’t Sweat It

In many cases, twisted neck or wry neck can go away on its own. Parents can, of course, speed up the process by asking the doctor for some advice. Most of the time, the doctor will recommend a series of stretches and massages that can help loosen the tight muscles.

The reason some babies are born with it is that the blood supply was compromised during delivery or possibly in the womb, although sometimes it is difficult to determine when. If a parent is vigilant and due to the lack of severity of the problem, it won’t be anything but a distant memory when they grow older.

Simply by talking with the child’s pediatrician will give the parents a better understanding of what is going on in their child’s body and determine if there is a call to action.

14It Can Come Back

In most cases, once a child has been treated for torticollis, their chances of relapse are very small. It is important to know that there is a chance though, however small. While parents should not worry about this happening to their child, it is important for them to notice if their child is exhibiting any behaviors that were common when they did have it. If that is the case, speak with a pediatrician about it.

In some cases, when the child is older, they may recommend physical therapy. When it returns, it doesn’t mean that it will come back worse than before. Spasmodic torticollis is probably the one that comes back the most frequently. Thankfully this type of torticollis is not associated with children but older adults.

13The Sooner The Better

With twisted neck come numerous questions. Most questions parents have for their pediatrician is, is this treatable? Thankfully, most of the time doctors can give an affirmative answer. The easiest form of treatment is stretching. In about ten percent of children who have some form of torticollis, they will need something more drastic to correct the problem; they will need surgery.

Some of the surgeries a doctor and orthopedic surgeon might recommend are fusing abnormal vertebrae. The surgeon can also manually lengthen neck muscles. Some treatment may also call for the cutting of nerves or muscles in the region. The last type of surgery used is only for patients with the most severe type of spasmodic torticollis. The surgeon will interrupt nerve signals with deep brain stimulation.

12Why Do Some Babies Have It And Others Don’t?

Torticollis is fairly common in infants. Both sexes are equally as likely to get it so there is no discrimination based on gender. Most cases are present at birth; however, it could take up to three months for the signs and symptoms to be fully present. While doctors cannot say with one hundred percent certainty what causes torticollis, they believe that it is caused by how cramped the fetus was inside the womb or their birth position.

An example of a bad birthing position could be a baby who is delivered breech, which is when a baby’s butt faces the birthing canal. Also, when a child is being delivered, instruments such as forceps or a vacuum being used can make a baby more likely to develop it. The three previously mentioned causes can put pressure on a baby’s sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM). This is the muscle that is on both sides of the neck. When pressure is applied, it can cause the muscles to tighten.

11It Can Be Temporary

When an adult sleeps in a funny position, sometimes when they wake up, their neck hurts. That pain is called torticollis. In adults and children, the pain caused by sleeping wrong or getting involved in an accident is temporary. There are ways a parent can relieve the pain in the neck. There isn’t much a baby can do to get rid of it.

Thankfully, a baby with a twisted neck will not be in any pain. A parent can help the baby by doing stretches. Once the muscle starts loosening up, it will be much easier for the baby to turn their head in the direction that was previously very difficult. Once this correction has been made, it is unlikely that the child will be afflicted with this neck problem again.

10Fixed, Acute, Or Permanent?

Fixed torticollis is probably the more common name for acute and permanent torticollis. Permanent sounds much worse than fixed. What makes this type of twisted neck different from the others is that this one is caused by a problem with the bone or muscular structure.

Children who have fixed torticollis may also have other symptoms like a protrusion of the tongue and a deviation of the eyes. In rare cases, it is caused by a tumor in the spinal cord or by an abnormality at the back of the brain.

Kids who have this type may also have heartburn as the stomach acid can get into the esophagus. Something this severe cannot be treated with stretching like others can. This may require surgery, but keep in mind that the earlier this is discovered the better it is for the child.

9What Lies Just Beneath The Skin

Muscular Torticollis falls under the umbrella of fixed torticollis and is the most common type of fixed torticollis. The name is a giveaway as to what causes this type of torticollis; it is caused by tight muscles or scarring on one side of the neck.

Fortunately, congenital muscular torticollis is caught before the child’s second month of life. Some children who have this type may also have developmental dysplasia of the hip. This is when the thighbone is not firmly in the hip socket.

Doctors will advise parents on stretches that can be performed in the home which should help the baby, but if that doesn’t work, then other options must be explored. Ten percent of children with congenital muscular torticollis require surgery to correct it. This surgery is performed when the child reaches pre-school age.

8Klippel-Feil Syndrome

Another form of fixed torticollis is Klippel-Feil Syndrome. This type of congenital twisted neck is rare. Parents should not worry themselves too much about this type of ailment although knowing it exists and what it looks like hurts no one. This congenital defect occurs when the bones in the baby’s neck form incorrectly. The general cause of this is when two vertebrae in the neck fuse together.

One of the more unfortunate side effects of Klippel-Feil syndrome is that the child may have trouble with their vision and hearing. The reason that these children have trouble hearing is due to the bones in their ears not forming correctly. When the neck is incorrectly formed, this will cause the neck to twist. Surgery may be an option, but the severity of the deformity will determine if a child is a good patient of not.

7Some Types Are More Common In Adults

Spasmodic torticollis is another name for cervical dystonia and this is also rare, especially in children. Like the word spasmodic may suggest, this ailment causes the muscles in the neck to contract in spasms.

When an adult or child has cervical dystonia, it will be painful to turn their head to one side. It can also cause the head and neck to tilt backward or forward. This is a type of torticollis that can go away without treatment, but there is a chance that this can come back.

Spasmodic torticollis generally occurs between the ages of forty to sixty, this is rare for children to have. This ailment tends to affect women more than men. Scientists generally consider this to be caused neurochemical abnormalities in the brain and not as a result of a structural neurodegenerative change.

6How Can A Parent Know If Their Baby Has It?

A mother, father, friend, or relative can know if a baby has twisted neck syndrome as there are several signs it is present in an infant. The most obvious sign is that the head is tilted in one direction; it should be said that this could be hard to notice in newborns. As the child develops, they will be able to follow their parent’s movement with their eyes and will also be able to track their movements by turning their heads.

If the child would rather look over one shoulder than turn their head to follow the parent, it could be a sign that they have torticollis. For babies who are breastfed, they may prefer one breast to the other as feeding on the less desired breast is more difficult for them. A sign of frustration like crying when they are unable to turn their head completely is a sign their neck muscles are tight.

5Assessing For Signs

Some children who have torticollis may also have developed a flat head. This is caused by lying on one side of their head all the time because they are unable to move their head in the full range of motion. It can also be sad to see a baby develop a bump or lump on the back of their head. This can be described as something very similar to knot in a tense muscle.

As torticollis improves, the flat head and lump will tend to go away. If a parent notices some of these signs, it is important to take their infant to their pediatrician to have an official diagnosis. The doctor will perform a physical test to see how far the baby is able to turn their head. A limit in their range of motion will be a clear indicator to the doctor that the child has torticollis.

4Stretch It Out

Torticollis can happen when the baby is positioned wrong in the womb or after a particularly difficult childbirth. Naturally, it can be very disheartening to see a baby who is having trouble turn its head or who has a tilted head. Thankfully, babies aren’t in any sort of pain from torticollis. Parents can perform stretching exercises with their baby or change the positions they are lying in. The pediatrician should be able to show parents stretching exercises that can be performed at home.

The stretches will help loosen up the tight SCM, which is the muscle in the neck, as well as to help strengthen the opposite side which is weaker due to inactivity. When following the doctor’s advice, the baby’s neck should straighten out. If the child’s torticollis is more severe, physical therapy may be required.

3Medications To Relieve The Pain

The doctor’s first line of defense to treat torticollis is stretching. Performing various massages on a child generally tends to help the problem disappear. Sometimes stretching is not always successful so they might search alternative routes to treat a child with this. One of those paths might be medication. Most of these medications are used by adults, but it is important to know what medications out there exist if the twisted neck continues past early childhood.

Doctors might recommend that a patient take muscle relaxers. This is a pretty obvious form of treatment as torticollis is caused by a tight neck muscle. Another medication given is the same used to treat the tremors for in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Pain medication is often prescribed; when they are young, this may not hurt them, but as they get older,

2Long-Term Health Problems

The temporary twisted neck should be no real cause for concern for a child or baby. More severe or congenital torticollis can pose serious health risks for the child for the rest of their life. Some problems a child may have are swollen neck muscles, chronic pain, neurological symptoms from compressed nerves, and difficulty performing routine tasks.

Babies who have a severe form of this may never be able to drive when they get older and have difficulty socializing which could lead to feelings of isolation and depression. It is easier to correct any problems caused by a twisted neck when they are younger.

However, if this is something that is not treatable for their child, they should try to find a local support group. It can help both parents and children deal with the stresses that come along with this.

1Knowledge Is Power

It is believed that about one in two hundred and fifty infants are born with torticollis. That makes this fairly common. Of those who have it, ten to twenty percent have hip dysplasia.

Congenital torticollis is more than likely caused by a tight muscle that connects the breastbone to the skull. Pediatricians will be able to spot this straight away. They will perform a physical exam and they may perform an X-ray. They do this is order to learn what type of torticollis their child has.

Depending on what type the baby has, they may also perform other tests like ultrasounds to see if the is a possibility of problems in other parts of the body. If the type is less severe, parents who follow the doctor’s regime of stretching will be able to see results in their child within weeks.

Sources: Babycenter, Orthoinfo, Healthline, Kids Health

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